Although they’re off to their best start since their last AL Central title five years ago, the surprising Minnesota Twins haven’t been able to solve the team that has won the past four crowns.
Minnesota hopes to change that in the opener of their road series against the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night, when the surprisingly successful Kyle Gibson will try to make up for his dismal outing at Comerica Park last month.
The Twins (18-14) have soared to their best record after 32 games since 2010, but hope to avoid their first back-to-back losses since April 20-21 after their four-game winning streak ended with Sunday’s 8-2 loss at Cleveland.
Brian Dozier’s solo home run and Joe Mauer’s RBI single accounted for the scoring and were the team’s only hits. Minnesota hit .322 and averaged 7.5 runs in winning nine of its previous 10.
"Your offense looks so much better when you get two-out hits," manager Paul Molitor told MLB’s official website of his team, which still is among the major league leaders with two outs and runners in scoring position (.313).
The Twins have struggled in this season series in pretty much every aspect. They’ve scored 2.5 runs per game in losing five of six while the starters have a 7.85 ERA.
Gibson (3-2, 2.97 ERA) allowed a season-high six runs and issued five walks over 3 2-3 innings as the Tigers completed a season-opening home sweep with a 7-1 win April 9. He’s gone 1-3 with a 7.48 ERA in his last four meetings overall.
The right-hander has MLB lows of 2.7 strikeouts per nine innings and 0.73 strikeouts per walk, but now looks to extend a 17 1-3 inning scoreless streak after giving up four hits over six innings in Wednesday’s 13-0 home win over Oakland.
Anthony Gose went 3 for 3 with a double off Gibson last month, while J.D. Martinez went 2 for 3 with a home run. Miguel Cabrera is 5 for 12 with a home run in their matchups and Ian Kinsler has gone 6 for 15 with a homer.
Detroit (19-13) hopes to get its bats going after totaling three runs in dropping the last two of its home series with Kansas City. The Tigers failed to drive in the tying run with the bases loaded and no outs in the 10th inning of Sunday’s 2-1 defeat.
Cabrera has gone 3 for 21 and Yoenis Cespedes is 3 for 24 over the last six games while Martinez is 2 for 29 in his past nine.
"Sometimes you don’t perform," Kinsler said. "That’s the way this game goes sometimes."
Alfredo Simon has allowed nine runs over 9 1-3 innings in his last two starts – both Detroit losses – after winning his first four. The right-hander did not get a decision after giving up three runs and issuing four walks over five innings in last Wednesday’s 7-6 road loss to the Chicago White Sox.
In his only career outing against Minnesota, Simon (4-1, 3.44) allowed a run over eight innings in an 8-1 win in 2011 while with Baltimore. Kurt Suzuki has fared well versus Simon, going 3 for 7 with two home runs.
Minnesota is expected to have Trevor Plouffe back after a two-game absence due to family reasons. The third baseman, tied with former Tiger Torii Hunter for the team lead with five homers, is hitting .346 over his last seven games.
Rookie James McCann will get an extended look as Detroit’s No. 1 catcher with Alex Avila (knee) sidelined.
The Twins have recalled outfielder Aaron Hicks from Triple-A Rochester and placed outfielder Shane Robinson on the family emergency list. Hicks batted .336 with 10 doubles, four triples, two homers and 15 walks in 27 games for Rochester.